No if they’d only rule against the Patriot Act and other invasions of privacy and police state activities.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must obtain a search warrant before using a GPS device to track criminal suspects. But the justices left for another day larger questions about how technology has altered a person’s expectation of privacy.
“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search’ ” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, Scalia wrote.
It was that question — society’s expectation of privacy in a modern world — that had animated the court’s consideration of the case. In an intense hour-long oral argument last November, the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel “1984” was referenced six times. The justices pondered a world in which satellites can zero in on an individual’s house, cameras can record the faces at a crowded intersection and individuals can instantly announce their every movement to the world on Facebook. They wondered about the government placing tracking devices in overcoats or on license plates.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the decision also should have settled some of those questions instead of deciding a case about a “21st-century surveillance technique” by using “18th-century tort law.”